Research themes

We have identified a core group of research themes that cut across departmental and faculty boundaries and reflect the reality of doing research in a fast-moving environment.

Elastic guided waves being radiated from a point source in a cross-ply composite plateAdvanced Composites and Intelligent Structures

The Advanced Composites and Intelligent Structures research theme is at the frontier of research and application of advanced composites materials and intelligent structures. Composites have outstanding mechanical properties and also offer exciting possibilities to create multi-functional adaptive structures.

Image of the brainBristol Neuroscience

World-leading research into the fundamental science of the brain and nervous system lies at the heart of the Neuroscience research theme at Bristol. This is embodied by Bristol Neuroscience (BN) which represents a large, diverse neuroscience community with an excellent international reputation.

Mandrill with image segmentation and synthesisBristol Vision

Vision science research at Bristol is at the forefront of the study of human and animal vision, artificial vision systems and image analysis. The theme is embodied by the Bristol Vision Institute (BVI), which stimulates interdisciplinary research in order to promote future development of this field.

Tumour cells showing an activated c-Src tyrosine kinase (green) expressed in adhesion complexes, actin (red) and nuclei (blue)Cancer

Cancer research in Bristol focuses on core strengths in cancer cell biology, genetic and lifecourse epidemiology and health services research. In partnership with Bristol NHS Trusts and UWE it aims to accelerate the identification and translation of novel and existing biomarkers into clinical practice for the early detection and treatment of cancer.

Scientific model of human heartCardiovascular Science

The Cardiovascular Science research theme is led by Bristol CardioVascular (formerly The Bristol Heart Institute - BHI), which comprises more than 230 researchers and clinicians across the University and the Bristol NHS Trusts, working to translate basic scientific research into novel clinical practice, thereby improving patient outcome and care.

British, Chinese and Sikh members of Municipal Police, Shanghai, c.1890sColonialism

The Colonialism research theme focuses on research areas ranging from the ancient to the contemporary, and from the Anglophone to the Lusophone worlds and beyond. Collaborative research on colonialism and post-colonialism is stimulated by crossing established disciplinary boundaries and conventional boundaries of time and space.

Detail of a circuit boardCommunications

The Communications research theme encompasses departments across the University and focuses on the theory of communications systems and how they are applied to a wide range of technological and societal problems.

Female looking into microscopeDynamic Cell Biology

Dynamic Cell Biology research focuses on the mechanisms and systems that allow cells in the body to perform their huge diversity of functions. Only by a detailed knowledge of how cells work, what they do, and how they interact with one another are we able to understand how body systems operate and how they fail. Such research has a crucial role to play in developing our understanding and treatment of human disease.

Detail from the Blade laboratoryDynamics Engineering

Dynamics Engineering research focuses on vibration, noise, fatigue and stability features in the performance of products across the entire spectrum of engineering – in machines (from domestic appliances to jet engines), in vehicles (for land, sea and air transport) and in the civil infrastructures of buildings and bridges. Research activities are based in the Bristol Laboratories for Advanced Dynamics Engineering (BLADE).

Fibre optic networkElectronic and Photonic Materials

Research into electronic and photonic materials – the building blocks of devices that exploit light and/or electric charge – promises to deliver cheaper, faster devices for information and communication technologies, inexpensive sensors to revolutionise healthcare and new methods of harvesting renewable energy.

Stokes Croft, BristolEthnicity and Migration

The Ethnicity and Migration research theme recognises the importance of ethnicity and migration to the study of contemporary societies and polities, and to prospects for social justice and social cohesion.

Biometric penguin recognition system in operation at Robben Island, South AfricaExabyte Informatics

Exabyte Informatics is concerned with the challenges and opportunities arising from having unprecedented amounts of data available in computer-readable form. The aim of the Exabyte Informatics research theme is to advance computing as the language of 21st-century science.

A female researcherGender

The Gender research theme focuses on questions of gender and contemporary social change, building on a long-standing tradition at Bristol of research and teaching on gender and feminist theory, dating from the era of ‘second-wave’ feminism.

The Afar rift in EthiopiaGlobal Change

The Global Change research theme brings together expertise across the Faculties of Science, Engineering, Arts, and Social Sciences and Law to deliver leading, multidisciplinary research on climate change and the environment.

Human RightsHuman Rights

The Human Rights Implementation Centre, based in the Law School, provides an international focus for developing expertise, advice and scholarship on the role of institutions, whether those are at the national, regional or international levels, in the implementation of human rights.

Heat labile enterotoxin of E. coli (EtxB)Infection and Immunity

The Infection and Immunity research theme studies the mechanisms that cause and spread disease. From emerging infections, spread around the world by modern travel or by environmental change, to chronic inflammatory conditions that strain the resources of first-world economies to breaking point, research in this area has immediate relevance to diseases that affect us all.

An audiologist at workMarket and Public Organisation

The Market and Public Organisation research theme combines expertise in economics, geography and law to examine the intersection between public and private sectors of the economy and to understand how best to organise and deliver public services. Research is carried out in the Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO).

Detail from the 'Cobden Book of Hours'Medieval Cultures

The Medieval Cultures research theme encompasses the literature, art, history and thought of western European civilization between c.500 and c.1500, builds on the established activities of the Bristol Centre for Medieval Studies and involves the research activities of more than 25 medievalists in the Faculty of Arts.

Crystal structure of the cofactor NAD (blue) and an inhibitor (green) bound to the parasite responsible for the most lethal form of malariaMolecular Biosciences

Molecular Biosciences research focuses on understanding the complexity of biological systems at a molecular level. Working at the interface of biology, chemistry and biophysics, this theme looks at new approaches to fundamental biological questions, as well as the design of drugs and biomaterials. The work encompasses physical biochemistry and chemical, structural and synthetic biology.

Writing formulae on a blackboardMultilevel Modelling

Multilevel Modelling is one of the basic techniques used in quantitative social science research for modelling data with complex hierarchical structures. The Multilevel Modelling research theme focuses on producing new statistical methods for tackling research questions, developing new software for implementing this methodology and disseminating these techniques to the national and international social science community.

Manipulating particles on the multi-touch tableNanoscience and Quantum Information

The Nanoscience and Quantum Information research theme harnesses a broad range of the University’s medical, scientific and engineering expertise. Interdisciplinary work across the theme stimulates advances in these fields that are widely anticipated to be critical to future economic developments.

Young boy studyingPopulation Health

Population Health researchers tackle many key public health and health care related issues facing high and low income countries, such as obesity, AIDS, mental illness, child health, cancer detection and treatment. These issues are complex in nature and require a multi-disciplinary approach using epidemiological, statistical and social science methods.

Rock ants (Temnothorax albipennis) engaging in tandem running, in which an experienced ant leads a nestmate to a new nest or foodPredictive Life Sciences

Predictive Life Sciences promotes interdisciplinary approaches to life science research. This includes systems biology (the use of mathematical modelling as part of an integrative loop with experimental techniques); synthetic biology (combining science and engineering in order to design novel biological functions and systems); and bioinformatics (computer analysis of biological data).

The Siegestor, Munich, modelled on the Arch of ConstantineReception

Reception explores the relationship between past and present and the role of the receiver (the reader, viewer or listener) in the transmission of culture. This research theme draws together scholars from across the Faculty of Arts in the study of the reading, reinterpretation and refashioning of texts over the centuries.

A cinema audienceScreen Research @ Bristol

Screen Research @ Bristol is an interdisciplinary group working in screen studies, a broad field that incorporates film, television and digital media technologies. The theme explores screen research in its broadest sense, incorporating comparative studies of historical periods and contexts; a theoretical understanding of screen media; and methodologies including the analysis of text-based and archive material and practice-based work.

A fortified aid compound in SudanSecurity and Governance

The Security and Governance research theme brings together researchers and academics working on, or interested in, the interconnections between security and governance in a national and international context.